Biden says he was ‘feeling terrible’ before debate, called it a ‘bad episode’

President Biden reiterated Friday that he felt terrible before last week’s debate but said it was a “bad episode” and not part of a larger condition, defending his candidacy in his first interview since mounting calls for him to drop out of the 2024 race began.

“It was a bad episode. No indication of any serious condition. I was exhausted,” Biden told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in the highly anticipated interview after his debate last week. “I didn’t listen to my instincts in terms of preparing and — and a bad night.”

Stephanopoulos noted that former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), an ally of the president, this week said it would be fair for voters to ask if Biden has a condition or if last week’s poor performance against former President Trump was just “an episode.”

Early into the president’s debate performance, during which he spoke in a soft and raspy voice and often struggled to complete sentences, the White House at the time said Biden had a cold. The incumbent then this week blamed recent foreign travel for his poor showing. He had returned from Europe 12 days before the debate.

Stephanopoulos questioned the timing, noting that Biden had spent six days at Camp David preparing for the debate, and the president said he thought he had COVID-19.

“Because I was sick, I was feeling terrible. A matter of fact, the doc was with me — I asked if they did a COVID test because I was trying to figure out what’s wrong,” Biden said. “They did a test to see whether or not I had some infection, you know, some virus. I didn’t; just had a really bad cold.”

The White House earlier Friday told reporters that Biden had a “verbal check-in” with his doctor about the cold during the debate, after telling reporters earlier in the week he did not get a medical exam. The White House didn’t mention a COVID-19 test.

When Stephanopoulos asked if he listened back to the debate after it aired, Biden responded, “I don’t think I did, no.”

The president also argued that former President Trump lied during the debate, saying he lied 28 times.

Stephanopoulos responded that Biden had trouble from the first question at the debate, and the president responded, “Well, I just had a bad night.”

Biden has faced an overwhelming amount of criticism since his poor debate performance, losing the support of donors and other Democrats and hearing calls to step aside from the 2024 race.

Ahead of the interview, Biden held an energetic rally in Wisconsin and declared he’s not dropping out of the race, pushing back on critics.

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